WaPost: Why Can't We All Just Get Along?
Well, apparently there’s not enough annoying bullshit in the world. Today I pulled this off the Washington Post.
Disagree About Iraq? You're Not Just Wrong -- You're Evil.
It turns out that the joker who wrote the story thinks that the real problem with this whole “Iraq War” thing is “how we Americans talk to each other about it.” According to Mr. Shankar Vedantam, when we disagree with someone about the war we are too often failing to tune in to our opponent’s point of view; failing to “try and figure out where he’s comin’ from, man.”
For example: I was against the Iraq war long before it even started. I was convince that Bush was an incompetent, untrustworthy little ex-drug abusing shitheel before a single American shot had even been fired in Iraq. That was my prejudice. The record showed that he had mismanaged practically every single enterprise he’d ever gotten involved with his entire adult life, and I wouldn’t even trust the guy to mow my lawn, much less trust him with the security of the nation and affairs of war and peace.
(By the way, once the war had started—I prayed that I was wrong about Bush and his “project,” I prayed that there would be a quick and easy victory in Iraq and that the liberated peoples of Iraq would “welcome us with open arms,” as the Bush administration had assured us. I didn’t believe that that would happen, but I prayed that that would happen.)
But I saw that Bush had surrounded himself with a bunch of oil men and neo-cons who were just dying to launch a war on Iraq, way before they even got into the White House. I saw them cynically exploit the ignorance of the public, trying to forge a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 and terrorizing the public with a phantom threat of Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Silly me! What I should have been doing is openly acknowledging that at least these people and their army of supporters were sincere. When they found that there were no WMDs, I should have credited my opponents with this issue with the very best of intentions—“An honest mistake, surely,” I should have said, “These people must have been firmly convinced of an existing WMD threat; no one could be so cynical as to commit the country to an unprecedented pre-emptive strike just to get control of Iraq’s oil reserves.”
And according to Mr Vedantam, when war proponents and defenders were just eating up statements about how well the war was progressing—“Victory!” “major combat operations have ended,” “Mission Accomplished”—I should have accepted these as assessments made in good faith.
And when Donald Rumsfeld said in February of 2003: “It is unknowable how long (this) conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” I should have should have refrained from expressions of skepticism. Surely Rumsfeld’s assessment was superior to my own; surely he would not deceive the country, the troops and himself about the probable outcome that would result if we overthrew Saddam.
And when Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in March 2003: “The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator.” What should I have done? I certainly should not have said, “That’s just bullshit. They will perceive the United States as a Western foreign interloper coming in to take over their country and its mineral wealth, and they will fragment into bloody little militias exploiting age-old ethnic and religious hatreds and treat our troops as a shooting gallery.” That’s so negative, so unfriendly to the pro-war point of view. And so unrealistic! How could I have possibly expressed THAT, as a possibility?
And when Vice President Cheney said in March 2003, “I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . (in) weeks rather than months.” How could I have dismissed this as the statement of a cynical incompetent?
Or when Cheney said (two years later) “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” Clearly it was wrong of me to doubt that the “insurgency” was in its last throes, even though it wasn’t. I should have tried to see it from Cheney’s point of view, which also became the point of view of millions of pro-war Americans.
And in June 2006, when Vice President Cheney defended his much-criticized claim a year before that the Iraq insurgency was in its “last throes” and said he believed that Iraq “turned a corner” last year when its people held elections creating a constitution and a government—there is no way I should have responded with a raspberry and dismissed the claim as “just more bullshit from an incompetent and deceitful administration that’s been contradicted by reality on a daily basis.” I should have ACCEPTED that statement at face value, and not dismissed it as a pathetically inadequate attempt at damage control—and a lie.
So you see, this whole “acrimony in the Iraq debate” is MY fault, and the fault of millions of Americans like me. It’s OUR failure to see that this administration and its millions of supporters are SINCERE.